Finding Joy

TobyMac plays Las Vegas tonight. If you’re TobyMac — if you’re one of the biggest Christian-music acts ever — does Sin City represent the belly of the beast?

"No," TobyMac, 45, says and laughs. "Not in any way, shape or form. My guys (in the band) look forward to getting to Vegas, because Vegas has flavor for days.

"Somebody might get offended by that in the church. But Vegas has flavor, man," he says. "And we think we’re gonna bring something to the city."

What TobyMac will bring is his rap- and rock-flavored pop songs, which have become hits in the Christian world, while also heard in movies, TV shows and TV ads.

He says he finds a lot of beauty in our lovely little town.

"I’ve been to Vegas a lot," he says. "I like to sit sometimes and just watch people there, and watch humanity in all its diversity.

"I’ve met some of the most gracious, beautiful people in Vegas — and I’ve seen some people putting their last dime in a slot machine."

That dichotomy of human strength and frailty is obviously not relegated to Vegas.

"It’s all over the place."

I asked him if he’s one of those who believes non-Christians are going to hell.

"I’m definitely not a person to judge anybody," he responds. "I’m trying my best to pursue God the best I can. Some days, I stumble and fall. Other days, I’m on my feet and running.

"So it’s difficult for me to sit back and judge someone," he says. "That’s really in God’s hands. I’m here to love people, and to open people’s minds to the hope God offered me, not to proselytize, beat people over the head, or judge people."

Since this is the holiday season, people can be stressed out by commercialization, shopping or taking exams in school, he says. He hopes his concert grants a relief.

"I look at this as a big Christmas party in the middle of all that, a celebration to remind people there is actually joy out there to be found, and give people a reason to smile, warm them up for a little while, and serve a good cause."

The good cause: Fans can get a "free" ticket, so to speak, by bringing a $10 donation to Toys for Tots plus one new, unwrapped toy. TobyMac’s been doing this at other shows.

"I get very fulfilled every night looking at the stack of toys for Toys for Tots. Just knowing that there are some kids that will have smiles on their faces this Christmas, it’s worth doing this tour.

"You can be as cynical as you want. But if you get a chance to serve, I think it brings something into your life, some enrichment, some fulfillment, and many times that leads to joy."

For his next album, due Feb. 9, he’s recorded songs about arguing with his wife, and letting friends down — and dealing with that personally and spiritually.

"I’m realistic. I know I drop the ball often."

He’s aware of his own neediness, which is a healthy trait, he says. Getting through life takes family and friends, and treating band mates with humility, and being honored they serve with him and use their talents to support his vision, he says.

"That’s not lip service, either, I promise. You can ask anybody in my band. That’s how I approach things, just because I’ve been doing it so long I know it’s not all about me. It’s that simple."

His band members hold varied religious opinions but are people who want truth and have hope and faith in God.

"It’s not like, ‘I will not hire you unless you feel exactly this way,’ " he says. "We’re a very diverse group of people that argue and debate. Hopefully we argue well but we love well, too."

Likewise, he hopes to attract people of all denominations and heritages to his concerts. At the end of every show, he says just that.

"We are God’s family," he tells the faithful. "That’s what we are."

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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